Briefly, my own experience of Open Pen, FYI
My wife wrapped ham sandwiches in grease-proof paper. Later, we walked to the station hand in hand. She passed my hat and the cane through the window, and we embraced as the guard blew his whistle. Brighton train station became enveloped in a delicious cloud of smoke, and alone, I reclined in my chair, watched the wildlife through the same window.
My narration was scheduled with the hep chaps of Open Pen Magazine, a crazy East London outfit of writers, and of editors. Cats of literature, the chief editor, a nice young man by the name of Sean Preston, had invited me to read my guide, Timetables of the Orient Express to a select audience at his Limehouse loft-house apartment.
What kind of man was Sean, and what kind of people, what is the scene, so-called at an Open Pen event? I shall tell you my experience. All I carried in my possession [cane, script and sandwich aside] was the embossed name card and address of the fellow. Indeed I was directed by an officer of the law towards a low Victorian block of apartments, and even as I stepped the cobbled street, heady scent of joss filled my nostrils. I pressed the buzzer, and a giant Indian manservant opened the wide door, took my cane, directed me up the stairwell.
Preston sat in his high chair, wore a gown and slippers only. I resisted the temptation to gag at the sight of hairless kneecaps, and the ginger pubic hair that curled along his thighs. He stood, shook my hand, placed the cigarette-holder in his teeth.
‘Dear boy,’ he said, ‘Why, you must read to me.’ He clapped his hands together. A series of candles were extinguished by an invisible bellows. With a sweep of his palm in direction, I ascended the low stage in this, the lounge arena.
You understand my knowledge in my field of expertise is top-class, my powers of recollection, outstanding and precise. However, it was difficult to see through the darkness. Yet I sensed audience. Preston, of course, the focus of my story-telling, emitted squeals, moans, clapped his hands again, but now in rapid bursts of physical expression. I sensed a ball on his nose. Not that I was distracted from my oratory, but I heard, quite clearly:
Clearly this was Preston’s voice, but when she stepped from the shadows, this creature of the afternoon, wrapped in only the most extensive feather boa and stiletto heels, well she danced, writhed in tune to my menu items – listed as available on the transport devices of Bratislava.
‘Stop, stop,’ he cried. ‘Anna,’ he said, we must take this gentleman to our club. You have passed the initiation, Matthew,’ he said, ‘welcome to my circle of authors.’
The rest of my story is humdrum almost, I accompanied the literary pair to the Jamboree Club, E1 and repeated my speech, word for word. The story is of course not included in this present anthology, some of you shall recall my disappointment, the script and locomotive window, such is the power of gin. All the best, my ducklings.
Matthew Woolfenden BA(hons), TEFL